Business guest column: Study shows paying bills, saving for retirement are major concerns

Gaye Borden
Wells Fargo Bank

Fifty-nine percent of middle-class Americans say paying the bills is their top financial concern, while saving for retirement falls to a distant second, according to our annual Wells Fargo Middle Class Retirement study released this October. Middle-class Americans are overwhelmed and consequently are putting off saving for their future. Four in 10 say it’s not possible pay the bills and save for retirement at the same time.

So, it’s not surprising that 48 percent of middle-class Americans aren’t confident they will have saved enough for retirement. Instead, 34 percent say they plan to work until at least age 80 because of that savings shortfall. Also, 37 percent agree they “won’t retire.”

Our research over the past few years has shown that having a written plan makes a big difference for middle-class Americans. Of those surveyed this year, 70 percent of those with a written plan told us they felt confident about their future retirement. Only 44 percent of those without that plan had confidence. That higher confidence generates tangible results. Those with a written plan have saved three times as much towards their retirement savings goal.

Our research revealed a perception problem when it comes to financial planning. Many told us planning doesn’t apply to them.

When asked the reason for not having a plan, 45 percent say it’s because they had “so few financial assets.” Everyone can benefit from a plan, one that can start simply with a budget that includes putting money into savings. Consistent saving is the foundation for creating a nest egg for retirement. Small amounts can make a difference over time. What is middle-class America depending on? In our research, the answer for many is Social Security. One-third agreed Social Security would be their intended “primary” source of income in retirement. When rating top financial concerns, 37 percent indicated the “loss or diminishment of Social Security” was their biggest concern, second only to 40 percent who said “a large unexpected healthcare expense.”

What’s the answer to these fears? Every person can make a difference in their long-term financial future by creating a plan for how to build the retirement nest egg they will need.

Gaye Borden is vice president of Institutional Retirement and Trust with Wells Fargo Bank in Nevada. For more information, visit

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